"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Texas A&M & Harvard Previews

Texas A&M Aggies
December 1, HP Field House, Orlando FL
Coach: Buzz Williams (0-0 at Texas A&M, 253-155 overall)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 68.7
3-Year kenpom Average: 61.3
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 49

Projected Starters: PG T.J. Starks (6'2" Jr), SG Wendell Mitchell (6'3" Sr), SF Jay Jay Chandler (6'4" Jr), PF Savion Flagg (6'7" Jr), C Josh Nebo (6'9" Sr)

Billy Kennedy's started his final season in College Station 1-4 and it never really looked up from there as the Aggies missed the NCAA and NIT. They do return their top three and five of their top six scorers, so there's reason for optimism. In addition, Williams immediately landed a top-10 JUCO reserve in Quenton Jackson as well as a pair of freshmen in Cashius McNeilly and Emanuel Miller that will be expected to contribute immediately.

Buzz went from three-anemic at Marquette to a heavily perimeter-oriented attack at Virginia Tech. One thing about Williams, he excels at adapting his style to his team. This A&M team is filled with mediocre shooters, so expect them to pound it inside to Flagg and Nebo. Tempo-wise, I expect a slow pace. With the exception of his first year at Marquette with the Amigos, Williams has played slower and last year in Blacksburg was the lowest ranked tempo of his career. With an unfamiliar roster that could struggle to score, a slower pace and mostly zone defense seems likely. That said, there is enough here that a good coach might be able to eke a NCAA bid out of this roster.

Marquette Connection: Shall we talk about the elephant in the room? Paint Touches' contributor Ryan Jackson is a Marquette alum that works at Texas A&M. Oh...the OTHER elephant in the room. After a stellar run at Marquette that included two Sweet 16s and an Elite 8, Buzz Williams left for Blacksburg and brought Virginia Tech to their first Sweet 16 in more than five decades. Then, in customary Buzz fashion, he headed for greener pastures with a program in disarray behind him. If this game happens it will be the first meeting between Buzz and one of his former programs. This would be one of the biggest narratives of the Thanksgiving weekend and if MU lost this matchup would likely make #mubb Twitter and MUScoop.com unbearable for a week or so.


Harvard Crimson
December 1, HP Field House, Orlando FL
Coach: Tommy Amaker (180-92 at Maryland, 430-251 overall)
3-Year NCAA Rank Average: 129.7
3-Year kenpom Average: 122.3
2019-20 T-Rank Projection: 18

Projected Starters: PG Bryce Aiken (6'0" Sr), SG Christian Juzang (6'2" Sr), SF Justin Bassey (6'5" Sr), PF Seth Towns (6'7" RS Jr), C Chris Lewis (6'9" Sr)

Harvard has finished in a tie for the league title each of the past two years and ended each of those seasons in the NIT. On paper, Tommy Amaker's team looks like a strong bet to get back to the NCAA Tournament this year. Their top-7 scorers are all back, as is 2018 Ivy League Player of the Year Seth Towns, who missed last season with injury (and will likely be a hot grad transfer name in 8 months due to Ivy League rules). How optimistic should Crimson fans be? T-Rank only has them as underdogs once this entire season. They are deep, experienced, and talented. The top-20 projection might be a little bullish, but this does look like a fringe top-25 roster.

In the past, Amaker's teams have tended to play slow and make shots. They won't pound you inside and while they usually shoot free throws well, they struggle getting to the line. The return of Towns will be intriguing as Aiken dominated the offense last year, scoring 22.2 ppg. At the other end, expect pressure man-to-man defense. In terms of resume building, Harvard is set to be very good. 20-25 wins and a NCAA bid seem likely. This is the kind of team that will be a very tough out thanks to their experience and talent level.

Marquette Connection: Tommy Amaker and Steve Wojciechowski have a lot in common. Both played point guard for Coach K. Both won Defensive Player of the Year for Duke. Both were Duke assistants, both went on to head coaching careers, and both made the NIT in 2018, when Amaker's Crimson saw their season end in Milwaukee, dropping a 67-60 decision to Wojciechowski's Golden Eagles. While Amaker was part of the staff that recruited Wojo to Duke, he is probably getting sick of him on the opposing sideline: Amaker is 0-3 against teams Wojo has been on the coaching staff for, going 0-2 while at Michigan against Duke when Wojo was an assistant before that 2018 NIT game.

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